NEW YORK (AP) – HBO Max has temporarily removed â€œGone With the Windâ€ from its streaming library in order to add historical context to the 1939 film long criticized for romanticizing slavery and the Civil War-era South.
Protests in the wake of George Floyd’s death have forced entertainment companies to grapple with the appropriateness of both current and past productions. On Tuesday, the Paramount Network dropped the long-running reality series â€œCopsâ€ after 33 seasons. The BBC also removed episodes of â€œLittle Britain,” a comedy series that featured a character in blackface, from its streaming service.
In an op-ed Monday in the Los Angeles Times, the filmmaker John Ridley urged WarnerMedia to take down â€œGone With the Wind,” arguing that it â€œromanticizes the Confederacy in a way that continues to give legitimacy to the notion that the secessionist movement was something more, or better, or more noble than what it was – a bloody insurrection to maintain the â€˜rightâ€™ to own, sell and buy human beings.â€
In a statement, the AT&T-owned WarnerMedia, which owns HBO Max, called â€œGone With the Windâ€ â€œa product of its timeâ€ that depicts racial prejudices.
“These racist depictions were wrong then and are wrong today, and we felt that to keep this title up without an explanation and a denouncement of those depictions would be irresponsible,â€ said an HBO Max spokesman in a statement.
The company said that when â€œGone With the Windâ€ returns to the recently launched streaming service, it will include â€œhistorical context and a denouncement of those very depictions, but will be presented as it was originally created, because to do otherwise would be the same as claiming these prejudices never existed.”
Based on a 1936 book by Margaret Mitchell, â€œGone With the Windâ€ is a historical epic about a romance between Scarlett Oâ€™Hara (Vivien Leigh), the daughter of a Georgia plantation owner, and Rhett Butler (Clark Gable), a gambler who joins the Confederacy.
â€œGone With the Windâ€ has long been denounced for featuring slave characters who remain loyal to their former owners after the abolition of slavery. It remains the highest-grossing film of all time when adjusted for inflation. It won eight Academy Awards including best picture and best supporting actress for Hattie McDaniel, the first black actress to be nominated or win an Oscar.
The move by WarnerMedia prompted widespread debate on social media Wednesday, especially among those who didn’t realize HBO Max planned to return â€œGone With the Windâ€ to it platform.
â€œIâ€™m told that no longer can you find on HBO â€˜Gone with the Windâ€™ because somehow that is now offensive,â€ said Kayleigh McEnany, White House press secretary. â€œWhere do you draw the line? Is it to George Washington and Thomas Jefferson and James Madison? (Should they) be erased from history? What about FDR and internment camps? Should he be erased from history?â€
â€œGone With the Windâ€ remains widely available for digital rental and purchase. On Wednesday, it rose toward the top of movie charts on Amazon and Apple’s iTunes.
Associated Press’ Aamer Madhani contributed to this report from Washington